Meanwhile, in other news …

While all attention has been focused on the Obamacare repeal drama, Russia has finally retaliated against the US for president Obama’s expulsion of Russian diplomats and seizure of properties that he did in the waning days of his tenure.

Russia has retaliated to new US sanctions by telling Washington to cut its diplomatic staff to 455 and barring the use of some properties.

The new US embassy staffing level would be the same as at Russia’s embassy in Washington.

The Russian foreign ministry also said it was seizing holiday properties and a warehouse used by US diplomats.

Until now, Russia had avoided the usual tit-for-tat response that is customary, presumably under the impression that the new Donald Trump administration would reverse that action. But the Trump administration has not done anything, whether because it does not want to or because of its chaotic style, lurching from one issue to another without any apparent goal in mind other than benefiting the rich and hurting marginalized groups.

The final straw for Russia was the overwhelming votes in Congress to impose new sanctions of Russia, Iran, and North Korea. The votes were 419-3 in the House of Representatives (all three no votes were Republicans) and 98-2 in the Senate (with Bernie Sanders and Rand Paul voting against). The bill is now awaiting Trump’s signature or veto with no one (and this could well include Trump himself) knowing what he will do

The sanctions votes alarmed and infuriated even the European allies of the US.

Sanctions bills against U.S. adversaries usually sail through Congress uncontested, and on a bipartisan basis. Few members of Congress want to vote against sanctions, fearful that the move could be spun into an attack ad that accusing them of being pro-Russia or pro-Iran.

The bill has the enthusiastic backing of Democrats, who are looking to punish Russia for its election interference.

The sanctions may be a symbolic move for Congress, but they are very real to Europeans who do business with neighboring Russia. On Sunday, the European Union indicated that they would retaliate against additional sanctions on Russia, fearful that they would impact energy companies.

In addition, the new Iranian sanctions threaten to jeopardize the 2015 Iran deal negotiated by President Obama. Despite the fact the Trump administration has levied its own sanctions against Iran, the administration has certified that Iran is complying with the deal.

While the Iran sanctions bill was at an early stage, former Secretary of State John Kerry spoke out against it, saying it would jeopardize the Iran nuclear deal.

And Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has threatened to retaliate tit for tat. According to Reuters, Iranian state media quoted the president saying, “If the enemy puts part of their promises underfoot then we will also put part of it underfoot. And if they put all of their promises underfoot then we will put promises underfoot.”

On a normal day with a normal administration and Congress, this story would have been big news. In the current political circus, it is barely noted.

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